28 May 2012

Our Loved One Sleeps For His Country's Flag: Pvt. Hosea Orcutt Barnes (1842-1864)

by Fearing Burr and George Lincoln, 1876

Today is Memorial Day. Somehow Memorial Day and Veterans Day have morphed into similar holidays and many people don't know the difference. Memorial Day is in danger of being swallowed up by Veterans Day. It's not a huge deal, really, and I'm glad that people pause to remember servicemen at all on this weekend that is most commonly associated with barbecues, the start of summer, being granted permission to wear white shoes, and the Indianapolis 500.

On both holidays we make a point to let our servicemen know we are grateful to them for keeping us safe. We salute the flag, hear veterans' memories and pause to pray. After all, the vets are still among us, and we need to make it clear to them how precious they are to us. And of course, we take a minute in our incredibly self-obsessed lives to be grateful for what we have. But there is actually a difference in these two holidays, and a place for both.

The tradition of decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers is surely timeless. But after the Civil War, the sheer numbers of lives lost caused people to gather and pause, and eventually the practice was formalized into Decoration Day. By the early 20th century, decorating graves extended beyond soldier's graves to all family members, and it has become a sort of Day of the Dead. But Decoration Day was already well established when we declared Armistice Day, a day to remember all those who had fallen in World War I. In Great Britain, Armistice Day was also called Remembrance Day because they didn't have the equivalent of our Decoration Day. In the US, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954, and on that day we celebrate and remember the horrors, thank the veterans, acknowledge that peace is much nicer than war, etc.

But just for today let's talk about remembering and memorializing those who actually died in battle or in service to our country. Not to minimize the suffering of returning veterans or their families. My own brother was a veteran and died prematurely because of exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

My work on Army repatriation cases makes this a sore spot for me. Most of the servicemen whose families I trace were just about 20 years old and not married when they disappeared or perished. Many have no one left who even remembers them--no one even interested in claiming the remains, or being honored by a stately military funeral. The serviceman's sacrifices have disappeared into a file somewhere in St. Louis. He is invisible. And I'm not talking about the Civil War. I'm working on Korea and World War II. Poof. It's like these kids never lived, fought, suffered or died. I sit with the file and wonder if I'm the only person alive who knows and cares, and is grateful.

So I went through my own files to find a family member who died young and unmarried. I don't have too many, thankfully. But this one actually did fight in the Civil War. He got plenty of accolades, perhaps more than usual for a private. But I want to thank my first cousin three times removed, Private Hosea Orcutt Barnes. Hosea was mustered into the Massachusetts 10th Battery, Light Artillery on September 9, 1862, just after turning 20.

Pvt. Hosea Orcutt Barnes,
photo from Barnes family album
Fearing Burr and George Lincoln's 1876 book, The Town of Hingham in the Civil War... (available on Google Books) tells us on pp 324-25:

Hosea Orcutt Barnes, whose name is upon the Soldiers' and Sallors' Monument, son of Elisha J. and Harriet A. (Peakes) Barnes of Boston, was born in Scituate, Mass., June 13, 1842. He joined the Tenth Light Battery, under Capt. J. Henry Sleeper, and was mustered as private, Sept. 9, 1862.

During the time young Barnes was connected with the battery, it was engaged at Kelley's Ford, Mine Run, Po River, Spottsylvania, and North Ana.

May 30, 1864, the battery went into position on the south side of Pamukey River, at a place called Jones' Farm, and was about to engage the enemy, when a detachment of four men was sent to cut down a tree which stood in a position that 'prevented accurate firing.[no end quote] The men returned and reported that it could not be accomplished by reason of exposure to the enemy's sharpshooters. Private Barnes then *volunteered* to perform the duty, and had removed the obstruction when he received his death-wound.

He was a promising young man, and a favorite with all who knew him.

A marble tablet, erected over his remains in the Hingham cemetery, bears the inscription:––
HOSEA O. BARNES
member of 10th Batt., Mass. Vols.
killed at Jones' Farm, Va.
May 30, 1864
Aged 21 years, 11 months.
-------
Our Loved One Sleeps
For His Country's Flag


Tombstone of Hosea O. Barnes and Little Willie,
Hingham Cemetery, Hingham, Massachusetts,
FindAGrave.com, memorial n. 2012533, added by MP, 27 Jun 2007;
(www.findagrave.com : accessed 28 May 2012).
I located a History of the 10th Battery, Mass Light Artillery, 1862-1865 online and it has a description of Hosea's death, but it is not as detailed as the one I found on a website dedicated to Hosea back in 2001. You can reach it via the Wayback Machine at:
http://web.archive.org/web/20080217210820/http://home.earthlink.net/~mmp2000/index.htm. The author was Mary Powers. She said:

It was high noon when three Union soldiers scrambled over the works to clear away brush that obstructed the view of the gunners. A single shot rang out from a rebel sniper's gun and found its mark. Private Hosea Orcutt Barnes lay mortally wounded from a Minie ball. He was just one month shy of his 22nd birthday...As reported in the battery's history written in 1909: "It was Hosea O. Barnes, Number Three man on the Third piece. One of his companions lifted him up and bore him into the breastworks, but he was rapidly entering the valley of shadows. ‘I am about gone,' were the last words that passed his lips. Shrouded in his shelter tent he was laid in a grave dug near by, and the spot marked by a hastily carved board placed at his head. His death cast a deep gloom over the Company, for his many good qualities as a soldier, notably his genial temperament and good humor, had made him a general favorite."

4 comments:

Jim S said...

By the way I see according to Genealoggers today is your three year anniversary since you've been blogging. Happy Blogiversary

Regards, Jim
Genealogy Blog at Hidden Genealogy Nuggets

Peter said...

Happy 3rd blogiversary Polly!

Bill West said...

Happy Blogiversary, Polly!

Polly Kimmitt said...

Thanks for the blogday greetings, fellas!